This One Sentence Helped Purdue Pharma Sell Billions of Dollars Worth of Opioids


Between 1999 and 2015, roughly 300,000 people in the United States died from opioid overdoses. And of the five states with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in 2016, four were in Appalachia. 

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear a special report from The Uncertain Hour, a podcast from American Public Media’s Marketplace. Their investigation, which first aired in December, centered on a lesser-known but significant aspect of the opioid crisis: how Purdue Pharma marketed OxyContin, its highly addictive pain medication.

In her special report, producer Caitlin Esch traveled throughout Appalachia, including a stop at the courthouse in McDowell County, West Virginia, where she uncovered hundreds of documents. Some had previously never been made public. She found a single sentence that Purdue relied on to aggressively market OxyContin helped advance the opioid epidemic.

“Some of the information has, for the last 13 years, been sitting in an envelope, marked ‘sealed’ in a West Virginia county courthouse,” said Krissy Clark, host of The Uncertain Hour.

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from APM, Marketplace and The Uncertain Hour. The full episode is available on their website.

Inside Appalachia is produced by Roxy Todd. Ibby Caputo edited our episode this week. Our executive producer is Jesse Wright. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens.